All-New 2016 Toyota Prius: What We Know So Far

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2013 Toyota Prius liftback

2013 Toyota Prius liftback

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The next-generation Toyota Prius hybrid may retain the same shape as its predecessors, but it's likely to be different in several important ways.

With spy shots of 2016 Prius prototypes now emerging, it's time to follow up on a piece we did six months ago.

So, let's look at all the confirmed facts and swirling rumors about the next edition of the world's most popular hybrid car.

For one thing, it will likely make the switch to a lighter lithium-ion battery pack.

For another, it'll be built in the United States, one of its largest markets.

And according to persistent rumors, it may even offer all-wheel drive.

Shape stays the same

The Prius is by now a visual icon, the quintessential hybrid, and instantly recognizable on streets all over the world.

But more than that, it's an extremely aerodynamic shape, with its rounded front, steeply raked windshield, gradually sloping roof, and high, truncated tail.

Toyota will, if anything, retain that shape and work to make it even slipperier to slice through the air using less energy than ever before.

Some styling cues may be found in the NS4 plug-in hybrid and FT-Bh compact hybrid concept cars displayed at auto shows over the last year or two--but you'll still recognize it as a Prius.

Sayonara, flying buttress?

It may well lose the polarizing "flying buttress" console design of the 2010 version, however.

2013 Toyota Prius 5dr HB Three (Natl) Dashboard

2013 Toyota Prius 5dr HB Three (Natl) Dashboard

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While visually striking, that high slash of hard plastic dividing the front passengers made the car less usable, requiring a stretch to reach floor bins underneath it for mobile phones, toll tickets, money, sodas, and all the rest of the stuff we carry when driving.

It's signficant than neither the larger Prius V wagon nor the smaller Prius C subcompact hatchback continues the flying-buttress console design.

Based on the use of a dashboard in the development cars that's very similar to that of a Lexus CT 200h, we're betting the buttress bites the dust.

Lighter lithium-ion battery

Since the very first Toyota Prius arrived at dealers in Japan in 1997, the Prius has used nickel-metal-hydride cells in its high-voltage battery pack.

The chemistry is durable, well-known, and at this point, Toyota can probably build it for less than any other maker due to its volume.

2010 Toyota Prius high-voltage battery pack

2010 Toyota Prius high-voltage battery pack

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The current Prius, launched for the 2010 model year, was meant to have a lithium-ion pack.

But in January 2010, Koie Saga, a senior managing director for drivetrain research, told journalists that Toyota had bet on the wrong lithium chemistry--so it fell back on tried-and-true nickel-metal hydride cells.

Still, the inexorable trend in battery packs for hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles is toward lithium-ion cells, which hold almost twice the energy per weight that NiMH cells do.

Toyota now offers two cars with lithium-ion packs: its Prius Plug-In Hybrid, and a version of what U.S. buyers know as the Prius V wagon, which can be ordered with a small third-row seat in Europe and Asia.

Made in America

Another facet of the 2010 Prius that never materialized was a plan to build it in the U.S., in a Mississippi plant that had originally been targeted for the Highlander crossover utlity vehicle.

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Comments (28)
  1. I bought a used 2010 Prius three months ago. It does not have it's factory Low Rolling Resistance tires on it, just a decent quality standard radial. With normal driving, it easily achieves 48+ mpg in mixed driving, 46.6 on a 1550 mile interstate road trip driving the posted speeds or slightly over, and I've surpassed 55 mpg tanks full several times. IMHO, if it does not have a plug on it, the Prius is the all-time economy champ.

  2. it would be nice if the new prius used wheel motors and a simpler transmission

  3. "a simpler transmission"- such as a diesel generator!
    How about a longer Prius Wagon with 4 wheel drive via electric motors, Plug-in w/ a larger Li battery and a small diesel generator such as the Volt's gas generator.

  4. Diesel doesn't have any advantage compared to Atkinson cycle, or especially a lean burn gas engine. Heavier, more expensive fuel, expensive fuel system and emission controls.

  5. No value in wheel motors for a front-drive car anyway. Plus, it still needs the ability to drive directly from the ICE... the Prius isn't a series hybrid, after all. As far as the transmission, which really doesn't exist (it's just a gearbox), I don't see that getting any simpler. The nixed the last belt in the system in 2010.

  6. Increase the driving fun factor and interior quality which includes updating the gauges and displays. I think that will be more successful than increasing FE to 55mpg. Savings in fuel cost start to drop of quickly after 50mpg anyway. Look to the reasons why people buy other hybrids and try to take some of that market back while staying on top with FE and reliability.

    The only reason I stuck with Prius (3rd one) is the utility and outstanding reliability. I could stomach losing a bit of efficiency for higher quality interior and better performance but not at the expense of utility (CMAX Energi) or reliability (Volt).

  7. What makes you think that Volt is less reliable?

    It is currently the most reliable Chevy model.

  8. I hang out at Gm-Volt, CMAX and Prius forums. I read reports from real owners instead of relying on JD Power and the like. The Volt has a lot of little issues (some not so little) compared to the Prius Plug In. I'm not slamming the Volt but it's a fact that it is less reliable than the Prius and so far the CMAX. Look up problems with the center stack, TPMS, performance reduction, low coolant system warnings, brakes, etc.. All require dealer visits where you drop off the car. I used to be a die hard GM fan while I raced my Vette, Trans Am and GMC truck so please don't label me a hater. I came very close to buying a Volt but those reports kept me from doing so.

  9. I own a Volt and a Prius. Both excellent vehicles. The Prius is hard to beat on price but 18 months into the Volt and it is the most reliable vehicle I have ever owned (so far). A lot less regular maintenance as well. I would buy either one of these vehicles again but the Volt is by far the best car I ever owned. These cars really are not in the same category for comparison. The Ford C-Max and the Plug in Prius are better comparisons. Both also excellent vehicles.

  10. I was ready to buy the Volt until I found out that it had no spare tire or even an option for one. Every thing else is well thought out, especially mountain mode. My new Prius has a spare tire.

  11. Well, do we know the % of complain vs. owners? Out of all the Volts and Pip at work, none of the Volt is having any issues. My Volt has certainly been perfect (12 month old).

    Sometimes, Toyota owners have "denial" problem b/c they believe their vehicles have to be perfect so even when it does have problem they don't think it is a problem. (Few Tacoma, 4Runner owners at work aren't exactly happy with their cars).

    But I do admit that Honda and Toyota are better than GM on average, especially the little problems.

  12. It would be very hard for any car to be more reliable than our particular 2008 Prius. It will be 7 years old in February. It has 140,000 miles on it. There have been ZERO problems with it. Not so much as a loose screw. Still have lots of pad left on the original brakes. Of course we've had normal expendables such as tires, and the 12V battery died after six years.

  13. It'd be nice if the new prius had aplugs out inverter, so you could use it as a emergency generator.

  14. Totally agree. Enough to safely power a large refrigerator. A little gasoline could save a lot of food. Every vehicle with a traction battery should have this, and remote AC.

  15. please have all of the Prius be plug-ins for 2015 this will dramatically boost mpg to over 100 MPG. It doesn't make financial sense to go from a 2010 prius 50 MPG to a 2015 prius 55 MPG. But I'd trade in my prius for a 2015 if it got over 100 MPG

  16. I have done an extensive spreadsheet to determine if a plug-in Prius would be a lower cost to own than a standard Prius. It isn't. On the surface it seems like it would be but when I plug in all of the details of our driving pattern, recharge costs, and fuel costs the plug-in is costlier to drive for us. So I do not hope that all are plug-in.

  17. According to the greencarcongress article linked below, the next gen Prius was supposed to have an engine of thermal efficiency of a bit more than 40%, thanks to a lean burning turbocharged engine

    Yes, lean burn, no engines on the market right now do lean burn. Honda used to but they couldn't keep the emissions low enough for the new standards so they haven't done it in 8+ years.
    There are 2 possible future engines for the Prius, one is a direct injected Atkinson cycle, that 2.5 years ago they achieved 42.4% efficiency.

    The turbocharged lean burn engine 2.5 years ago they had achieved 43.7% thermal efficiency.

  18. I like current toyota hybrids for what they don't have. No lithium battery (nickel battery very long lived). No turbo or supercharger. No clutches, no belts, no 10 or 12 speed automatic transmission. No direct injection as there is no fuel to clean the intake valves. Toyota has a system with both port and DI which might be good. HSD well thought out, wish Sienna had it.

  19. Hybrids carry their energy in the fuel tank. What they need from the battery is power (high current for a short duration). The nickel battery is better (so I have read) for power and has been lasting over a decade. Why give that up for a higher energy density battery that costs more and may only last 7 years? Weight savings maybe.

  20. Well, there's quite a bit in battery specifics. NiMh used to be considered low output compared to NiCAD, but they moved past that. Some modern Li-ion formulations do have pretty high current peaks and long charging life (like the 5000 cycle batteries in the Volt, versus the 350-500 cycle batteries in your phone). But I agree, it remains to be seen if they really do last over time. Conventional Li-ion cells have also had a limited lifespan whether used or not. And the NiMhs in my 2003 Prius, at 240,000 miles, are still functioning just dandy (my kid has it now, my wife and I each have nearly matching newer ones, her's a 2006, mine a 2007).

  21. I have a 2007 Prius, with 266000 miles. Regular tires, and getting 50 mpg on an average. Unfortunately, this is the second engine, first one only lasted 255000. Will be buying a 2015 if all the hype is true.

  22. What ever happened to leather interiors?? My 2010 Prius with cloth interiors needs cleaning every time I take it in for service or the grandkids for treats. Luxury is as important as performance for girls like me. Also ditch that dangerous back window.

  23. We purchased a 2012 Prius Plug-In in September of 2014.
    EV mode we are averaging 84-95 mpg believe it or not.
    In ECON mode it averages 60-68 mpg (45 mph is it's sweet speed).
    We had a 2008 for seven years, no, and I mean no $ cost in repairs. Unbelievable! We will keep this one until new design and Technology is out then purchase another one 2 years old.
    Great little Automoile.

  24. Well this report is a mixed blessing.

    Shape stays the same: I was hoping for a change. Not because I care about how the car looks but I'm tired of hearing other people tell me it's ugly.

    Sayonara, flying buttress? I sure hope so. I would have purchased a 2014 but for the flying buttress. My problem is I have claustrophobia. Cars are already claustrophobic but sitting in the 2014 my right knee and leg were restricted by the flying buttress. I'm ready to buy and will wait for the 2016 but if the same or similar restrictions exist I'll be forced to look elsewhere.

    Lighter lithium-ion battery: I'm all for it. Cargo space is very important to me. I hope the new battery provides the same space or more space, not less.

  25. All wheel drive: As an option yes as long as it doesn't significantly alter the price or gas mileage.

    I've noticed many people in Los Angeles buy all wheel drive cars but never have a need for them. Living in Northern California we do have real needs for all wheel drive and there are very many of them on the roads here. It would be a welcome option. Subaru does a good business in Redding, CA with their line of all wheel drive cars.

    Better Gas Mileage. That's why I drive a Prius. The more mileage the better.

  26. I would really like to see a return to more traditional gauge positioning. I don't mind that the gauge is far and under the windshield. What I mind is the shift to the center. I want my gauges right in front of me.

  27. I have owned a 2005 Toyota Prius since 2004. It currently has approximately 160,000 miles on it. Everything on this car is basically original except for the tires. I am now on my third set of tires. The brakes which are still original are in excellent condition. I have owned a lot of cars from a 1968 GTO Judge, Olds, MGA's and Bs, Austin Healy, Volkswagans, Mercury, and Audi. Personally I have opened the hood three times in all these years on this car... when I first bought it, and two times to remove a few leaves that had made it past the windshield wipers. Always have gotten 55mpg or over. This car is nothing short of phenomenal! If you want a care built for traffic and one you don't have to worry about, this is it. I'll buy another.

  28. I drive a 2007 Prius touring (50 mpg) w/ 162000 miles on it. We also have a 2015 Nissan Leaf. When can we see a pure electric Toyota?!

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